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Cupcake wine review 2014

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Cupcake wine review 2014Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($9, purchased, 13.5%)

Cupcake Pinot Grigio 2013 ($9, purchased, 12.5%)

Whenever the Wine Curmudgeon reviews Cupcake wines, I always end up writing as much about the brand and the company that owns Cupcake as I do about the wines. That’s because Cupcake may be the most fascinating wine brand in the world today, where what’s in the bottle doesn’t matter nearly as much as how the wine is marketed. It’s genius, actually, all those red velvet cake descriptors propelling the brand to national awareness without any help from the Winestream Media or scores.

Who else would have the nerve to market a wine called Chloe, with a suggested price of $17, targeting “weddings, birthdays and other celebratory gatherings” without any hint of what it tastes like? Or that calling it Chloe has more than a little to do with the name’s popularity for baby girls over the past decade?

Which doesn’t mean Cupcake wines are bad. They inhabit the region between the boring grocery store stuff and the best cheap wine. In this, think of the chain restaurant business, where Cupcake is an upscale steakhouse like Capital Grille or Fleming’s, and the rest of it is Red Lobster and Texas Roadhouse. The food is better at the former, but in the end it’s still chain food, and these wines, no matter how much Cupcake dresses them up, are still chain wines.

The cabernet, from California, is full, fruity, and almost balanced, with soft tannins, cherry fruit, and an odd sort of chocolate flavor. It’s not quite sweet, though the residual sugar is higher than in most red wines. It’s much better than I expected it to be, and certainly drinkable. If you’re going to make a focus group wine, this is the way to do it.

The Italian-made pinot grigio, on the other hand, is surprisingly disappointing, given how easy it is to make cheap, palatable pinot grigio. It’s oddly disjointed, with a dollop of sweet white fruit in the middle, a quality that doesn’t go with its traditional, Italian-style quinine approach that makes up the rest of the wine and is so popular among women of a certain age. My guess is that the dollop is there to sweeten the wine in line with Cupcake’s flavor profile, a winemaking trick that is cheaper or easier or more legal than adding sugar.

So one yes and one no. Assuming, of course, you can’t find a better $10 wine, which isn’t all that difficult. The labels just aren’t as much fun to read.

For more on Cupcake wine:
Cupcake wine review 2013
Cupcake wine review 2012

Cupcake wine review 2013

cupcake wine review 2013The Wine Curmudgeon has discovered the flaw in the Cupcake Vineyards marketing juggernaut. It’s almost impossible to find the wines in a store, whether grocery or wine, that has any kind of inventory. It took me 10 minutes to locate the two bottles for this review, scuttling between aisles at my local Kroger; would a less determined consumer have done as much?

Maybe they would. Cupcake is the post-modern wine business success story, eclipsing even Barefoot and its millions and millions of cases. Three years after it started, Cupcake was named wine brand of the year, and its sales increased 67 percent in 2012, according to one market research firm.

Cupcake, as Blake Gray wrote last year, approaches wine from a different perspective. It markets its brand before it markets its products, so its customers don’t buy on varietal, like pinot noir, or region, like France, the way most of us do. Rather, its customers buy Cupcake first and worry about varietal and region later.

In this, the wine is marketed almost like women’s clothing, where Cupcake is the designer that shoppers look for before they look for a specific item like a dress or a skirt. That’s why Target has long offered designer collections, whether from Isaac Mizrahi, Jason Wu, or Phillip Lim.

None of this, of course, takes into account whether the wine offers value. That’s why I’m here – this year’s take is after the jump:

Winebits 240: Cupcake, wine shows, airline wine

Cupcake CEO speaks: David Kent, who runs The Wine Group, was interviewed by the MarketWatch trade magazine. Excerpts ran here and here. Kent’s company makes Cupcake and the Franzia boxed wines (among many others) and is one of the biggest in the world, and he knows the cheap wine business: “We prefer to define wines priced under $4 on a 750-ml. basis as ‘popular-priced,’ since many of their consumers don’t fit the classic definition of an economy shopper. Just ask our friends at Trader Joe’s. Popular-priced wine consumers know what they like and know what they need to pay for it. Franzia is an extraordinary brand because it appeals to consumers across all age and income demographics. It’s built on the idea that consumers prefer fresh, affordable wine to stale, potentially overpriced wine. It works.”

Mega-event canceled: And the high-end wine business still isn’t what it used to be, if this is any indication. France’s Vin-Expo is the ultimate in wine trade shows, featuring the best wines in the world – including all that stuff that most of us will never get a chance to taste. It had scheduled a New York consumer event for this fall, but couldn’t sell any space to wineries, reports the drinks business trade magazine. Only one-third of the producer slots were filled, so the event has been canceled. Two things stand out – first, that high-end wineries didn’t want to participate in an event like this, which speaks to their unease with the economy (as well as how much the organizers were charging them to participate). Second, even it had attracted enough wineries, would consumers have paid $180 to $300 to attend?

Best airlines for wine: Yes, I know – an oxymoron. But Departures, an on-line magazine, lists the five best anyway: Qantas, Air New Zealand, Malaysia, Qatar and – hard to believe – the bankrupt and legendarily poorly-run American. The caveat here is that the rankings only include wine service in the premium cabins, and not coach. Where, I know for a fact, the American wine selections often make stuff I won’t review on the blog seem good. (Full disclosure: I still do an occasional article for the company that publishes American’s in-flight magazine.)

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